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Could the SmartLabel Fix the Food Labeling Fight?

November 4, 2015
Hershey SmartLabelFood trade journal Sustainable Brands reported on the new SmartLabel introduced by the Grocery Manufacturers Association to help meet the public’s desire for more information about food and other products.  Hershey is the first brand to adopt it.

Starting in 2016, you'll see branded products with a smartphone-readable QR code printed on the packaging that will link consumers to websites containing far more information than could ever fit on a product's packaging — consumers will be able to search or scan for detailed and consistent information about nutrition, ingredients, allergens, GMOs, product usage, advisories and brand information. SmartLabel can be scanned from any smartphone, without the need to download a special app.

Hershey’s product labels will have a QR code that shoppers can scan to get a detailed list of ingredients and information on the company’s practices and policies. About 90 other companies are also involved with the program; consumers should expect to see SmartLabel more widely rolled out by mid-2016.

"The relationship between people and their food has changed dramatically over the past few decades," Jeff Beckman, Director of Corporate Communications at Hershey, said via email. "We are very proud to have led the way in creating a SmartLabel QR code that can be adopted nationwide to help protect consumers by eliminating a confusing and impractical patchwork of package labels and state-by-state labeling laws."

Beckman said the SmartLabel will begin appearing on Hershey's Holiday Kisses chocolates that are arriving in stores now.

"The best part about SmartLabel QR codes is they are not restricted by size or space unlike on-package labeling. We believe that the food transparency movement is a major milestone marking a new stage in how food companies more openly communicate with consumers."

According to John Bilbrey, CEO of the Hershey Company and GMA’s chairman, the industry wants to create a platform that could provide consumers with all the information that interests them.

“As a company that has seen nearly a century and a half of social and industrial change, we believe that the food transparency movement is another major milestone, marking a new stage in how food companies communicate with their consumers,” Bilbrey said in a recent post. “Government and industry leaders alike, get ready: food transparency is here and it is time for the industry to join together and support a shared technology solution to give consumers the food information they want and deserve.”

Bilbrey also pointed out that while the SmartLabel program is voluntary, he thinks it will pressure companies to be complete in what they disclose.

SmartLabel follows on similar efforts to increase transparency about ingredients from Clorox (which developed its own mobile app) and recent campaigns from McDonald’s and Campbell’s.

Visit Hershey's website to learn more about its SmartLabel in this online video.